Start & End Date: 01-09-2018 – 30-06-2020
Participating Countries: Croatia, Germany, Spain, Portugal
Project Partners: Mreza Youth Network (Croatia), CGE e.V Erfurt & EJBW Stiftung ,
Asociación Caminos & Colegio Oficial de Ciencias Politicas y Sociologia de Andalusia, UMAR & Youth Coop

Direct Target Group for this project: Youth workers, educators, trainers: They will raise their capacities for work with youth and deepen their knowledge about the complexity of the work in shrinking cities. They will also increase their research and training skills. The organisations themselves will benefit from produced outputs (methodology, study researches, toolkit, materials, and dissemination), which they will be able to use in their future work. Also, they will strengthen their potential for networking and stronger international cooperation.

The past few decades have marked an increased social mobility combined with the drop of population in many cities across the EU. A trend of migration from small and medium-sized cities towards major European cities have caused an urban shrinkage. Population loss along with economic decline have resulted in uneven development patterns for EU urban regions, not only in terms of the local economy, but also in relation to the development of functional social structures of the cities.

A great deal has been written about causes and impacts of shrinkage, as well as about policies and planning strategies. Nevertheless, the state of knowledge in a cross-national perspective is rather poor because studies have basically analysed large cities and empirical evidence hardly shifts attention to the contextual influence on local dynamics (Wolff, Wiechmann: 2017). And mostly with focus on one or two country or community case studies with its application mainly in the academic sphere. Given that a shrinking city is one that has experienced population loss, employment decline and social problems as symptoms of a structural crisis (Martinez-Fernandez et. al. 2012), it shows how complex the shrinkage process is and that requires more explanation of push factors. The widely perceived “lack of future” opinion reveals the crucial push-factor for people to leave their place/country. Among these factors are: working opportunities, social content (cultural activities, free time, education and training), class, gender, ethnicity, and inclusion of youth in policy-making just to name a few.

Similarities can be found in many countries across EU. In the planning process, partners conducted a preliminary research and provided information about shrinking cities and relation to the youth in their countries. There is a unanimous conclusion that the socio-economic problems cause the cities to shrink and have enormous effects mainly on youth. On the other hand, there is a great number of youth that believe they can change things for better in their setting. Similarly, youth need access to be common accepted tools and improved practices that can be used in their own social and cultural contexts. Correspondingly, youth work should provide a bridge that strengthens young people at personal level, but also promotes public action and learning about translating key values of youth work into reality. Moreover, engagement in the wide variety of personal and social development activities, helps young people to develop the knowledge and skills that are needed in the labour market, given that 3.5 million young people are unemployed in the EU (Eurostat, 2018).

The partners embrace the idea of conducting proper mapping and research that would enable to better understand similarities and differences of problems while at the same time provide methods through the toolkit for learning on how to deal with critical socio-economic dynamics at different local setting across the EU. It is also important to investigate examples of successful youth work, identify and document innovativeness, and widely disseminate the results. To do that, there is need for data collection, gathering information and showcasing processes of different shrinking cities through mapping and addressing various drivers and impacts.

Activities

Mapping methodology and researches

The mapping methodology aims to include similarities and differences among EU countries. Partners will define the goal and objectives of the mapping, data, sources, and other relevant materials that will lead to the development of a methodology to be applied. The mapping methodology should deliver steps that need to be covered for description of shrinking cities phenomenon in each of the selected countries, along with studies of successful youth work practices contesting their unfavourable dynamics. Once the methodology is developed, each partner will provide a study of shrinking cities phenomenon in each of the selected countries along with best practice examples/cases of youth work contesting dynamics of shrinking cities. These studies provide a unique feature as they showcase different shrinking situations across various EU countries. This activity is essential as it paves the way for the development of the Toolkit.

Toolkit developed

The development of a toolkit consisting of the publications with methodological instructions for youth work based on methodology will be practical and interactive, as well as action- oriented material containing exercises, examples, and specific tasks, such as developing plans for future work in a local setting as well as networking with other youth workers around EU. The toolkit will serve as a guide for future work of youth in shrinking cities. It should help the youth workers to advocate and/or implement selected examples of good practice in their local community. Furthermore, it should also increase the public awareness about the issue of shrinking cities as a common European phenomenon. The toolkit is meant to contribute to the sustainability of the communities in the shrinking cities.

Testing the toolkit

This event serves as venue for associates and activists of partner organizations, aimed at testing different elements of the toolkit and empowering associates and activists for use of the toolkit. The aim is to present and test various aspects of the toolkit and enable participants to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies for youth work. The combination of presentations and soft skills will be designed to directly equip and empower the youth and it will be highly focused on immediate practising of the gained skills.

Dissemination

It combines elements of working at the local level as well as a social networking. As a main dissemination channel will be the use of existing web platforms where initially all the materials are published and made widely available. Whereas the social media channels will further facilitate engagement and promote project results. Throughout the duration of the project and upon its completion, all the materials and resources will be on-line for further use. Furthermore, the access to information provided will create opportunities for youth workers to interact, communicate, network, and share information and experience.

Impact

This project aims to contribute to building new strategies of social inclusion and civic engagement for youth residing in Europe’s “shrinking cities”. The objectives of the project are: To expand knowledge on the „shrinking cities” phenomena in the selected European countries, with emphasis on successful youth work practices contesting their unfavourable social, economic and political dynamics; To create, test and disseminate quality toolbox for youth workers working in shrinking cities based on the mapping and analysis of best practices in selected countries. Additionally, the project will provide an opportunity for youth workers, volunteers, organisation’s staff to learn, explore, reflect, and develop tools that will aid them directly to improve.